Device ends years of excruciating pain

BERNADETTE Neville's life has been wrecked by excruciating pain, but she considers herself lucky. 

At 13 she developed a rare condition that led to internal bleeding in her abdomen. 

The doctors treated the condition, portal vein thrombosis, but chronic pain was apparently not in the textbook. 

``They said it must be in my head and sent me to psychologists,'' Ms Neville, of Launceston, said.

``The psychologists said it was real, but the doctors would still not believe it. 

``Without a medical diagnosis even most of my family didn't believe me. 

``I self-medicated. I couldn't keep a job.''

Then, at the age of 25, she finally found a doctor who took her seriously. 

``It made me feel worthwhile again. I remember being incredibly emotional,'' she said.

Eventually, after trying several medications, she was referred to a pain specialist, who suggested an implanted spinal cord stimulator. 

``It's about the size of a hockey puck. It is inserted just under skin in my lower back,'' she said. 

``It was unbelievable. Within 24 hours I wanted to be taken off my opioid medication. 

``It's reduced my pain by 80 per cent. Now the pain is more annoying than excruciating.''

Before the device Ms Neville was lucky to get out of bed for an hour or two. 

``Now I have a part-time job and I'm studying law and arts part-time,'' she says. 

``I consider myself incredibly blessed. Being almost pain free and drug free is the most amazing feeling.'' 

Canadian specialist Jeffrey Mogil said people in pain need empathy and understanding. 

``Pain is the most common human health problem,'' said Dr Mogil, who will be speaking at the Australian Pain Society annual scientific meeting in Hobart this month.

Dr Mogil will join local pain experts at a public pain day in Hobart on April 13.

Other speakers include Professor Michael Nicholas on chronic pain and self management and Dr Richard Sullivan on integrating medications with pain management plans. 

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